October 9 -11
We pulled up in front of Erie Ale Works, parked and walked inside, noting a few people leaning against a low-slung wall enjoying their beers. Inside the tap room is small, with the brewing tanks taking up half of the space and separated from the bar area by a chain link fence. Perusing the menu board, we went light to start, a Calliope Flyer (a Witbier with Lavender, orange peel, and coriander) for Joanna and an Oktoberfest for me.
The beer was good, and we would likely have stayed longer it there had been more food choices (they have a light menu and an occasional food truck) but seeking more options, decided to head nearby Lavery Brewing Company. A ten-barrel brewhouse that started in 2009, it’s a cozy friendly place whose owner, Jason Lavery, is committed to staying small to accommodate a wide range of styles and maintaining ties to the local community through unique food choices and friendly community involvement.
We parked in the adjacent lot and walked in the front door, heading down a long dark corridor not knowing what we were getting into, found ourselves in a welcoming pub with a crowd of folks our age at the bar. We started with a Pumpkin Ale for Joanna and an Imperial Red Ale for me.
This is a place where folks obviously know each other and we could sense the community that exists here, a rust belt city with harsh winters hammered by the economic vicissitudes that have decimated so many places like these, where a warm seat and your favorite brewhouse is what gets you through the week.
Hungry by now we perused the extensive menu and decided instead to order one of the Sunday brunch items, the Florentine Calzone, a delicious mash up of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses with fresh spinach. To put the finishing touches on the day I ordered the 8.5% Bokeh Dreams IPA with its hints of peach and candied tangerine. Oh, and wet dog.
We settled up the tab, a refreshingly reasonable $34 and made our way back to camp, full of a good day on the road. The next day, we took advantage of good weather and not much to do from a tourist perspective the by driving to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center to park in the lot there in order to ride our bikes out to Presque Isle State Park. This 3,112-acre park is an arching, sandy peninsula that juts into Lake Erie and sweeps northeastward, surrounding Presque Isle Bay along the park’s southern coast. It has 13 miles of roads, 21 miles of recreational trails, 13 beaches for swimming, and a marina.
We pedaled out of the Environmental Center up Peninsula Drive for some miles before peeling off on Fisher Drive to arrive at the Perry Monument, a 101 feet obelisk. Presque Isle played a part in the victory over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812. Oliver Hazard Perry commanded the fleet in battle and strategically used the Presque Isle Bay as a pier and, a place to construct six out of nine of the ships in his fleet.
Using this location protected the men by creating an obstacle for potential attackers because they would have to travel all the way around the peninsula to reach them. The small bay near the tip of the peninsula (next to the current Perry’s Monument) was later named Misery Bay, because of the hardships that took place there after the men returned from battle, during the winters of 1812–1814.
Many men suffered from smallpox and were kept in quarantine in the area of the bay and a great deal of the infected died and were buried in a pond now called Graveyard Pond. In 1926, the Perry monument was built to commemorate him on his victory over the British in the battle on Lake Erie.
We continued on our ride along Thompson Drive to the northern side of the isle eventually reaching the 68 feet tall Presque Isle Lighthouse. Historically nicknamed the “Flash Light”, it is one of three lighthouses in Erie, along with the Erie Land Light and the North Pier Light. The lighthouse was opened in 1873 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed that day and thus we rode on to eventually exit the park and continue on city streets to the area near the harbor we’d visited the day before. In search of coffee and a snack we stumbled upon Ye Ole Sweet Shoppe, a locally owned bakery with a nice selection of goodies. We ordered what we thought was a sizable pastry to split and some cookies to take back to camp, and then discovering that the pastry was quite small, demolished the cookies as well.
We rode back to the car, loaded the bikes, and while I cooled out reading Joanna made a brief visit to the Environmental Center, then rejoined me and we drove back to camp. Later we made our way to the outskirts of Erie for dinner at Bistro 26, another recommendation from Trip Advisor.
One of the few complaints about the place was that its interior needed to be updated but we had no real complaints as it was somewhat sterile, but not unattractive. Joanna started with a glass of Apothic Red to go along with her Scallops and Risotto (Pan-seared scallops over tomato basil mozzarella risotto drizzled with balsamic glaze).
I started with a BV Coastal Chardonnay to go with my starter Caesar Salad and then a glass of Frontera Malbec to enhance a very nice Filet Au-Poivre (6oz center cut, pepper encrusted and topped with pepper cream sauce). We both thoroughly enjoyed the food, its quality and preparation proof that a restaurant doesn’t need to look fancy or upscale for the eats to be worth the visit and the money.
Our three nights in Erie had been nice, with a fun lake cruise, a good bike ride, quite good food and beer and importantly, after almost two weeks of staying with family and friends, it was nice to have it just be the two of us. Our next stop Ithaca would be a short drive the next day and so we lingered in camp, enjoying the balmy weather and the pleasant buzz a nice dinner and moderate amounts of alcohol provide.
Erie Ale Works: https://www.eriealeworks.com/
Lavery Brewing Company: https://www.laverybrewing.com/
Presque Isle State Park: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/PresqueIsleStatePark/Pages/default.aspx
Presque Isle Lighthouse: https://www.presqueislelighthouse.org/
Ye Ole Sweet Shoppe: https://yeolesweets.com/
Bistro 26: https://www.bistro26erie.com/